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More Holy Relics for Peterborough’s Abbey



Construction of the Becket Chapel and adjacent hospital began in 1174. They were built to house many of the monastery’s holy relics, not least the relics of the newly canonised St Thomas Becket. Becket had visited the abbey with King Henry II in 1154, but was later murdered in Canterbury Cathedral. Abbot Benedict acquired some of Becket’s relics for Peterborough Abbey which were to encourage pilgrims. These included the flagstone his head laid on as he died; a bottle of Becket’s blood (said to never congeal); and furthermore Becket’s bloodied undergown he was wearing as he was murdered. The latter was ceremonially washed on feast days; the washing water was then collected and sold to pilgrims as a cure-all. The Becket Chapel survives today as the Cathedral’s tea-room.


Cherry Fair Founded



Cherry Fair was one of the oldest fairs in Peterborough, granted by a charter in 1189 by Richard I to Abbot Benedict. It was planned to be held on or around St Peter's Feast, on the 29th June, which is why the fair was also known as St Peter's or Petermas Fair and ran for eight days. In 1572 the date of the fair was moved from 29th June to 10th July. It was traditionally held in the Market Place (Cathedral Square), but in 1899 it was held in Broadway opposite the cattle market, after dwindling visitors and a lack of interest. By 1915 it was little more than a meat market.

Abbot Sexwolf, the First Abbot of Medehamstede



The first abbey in Medehamstede, now Peterborough, was built around 655. The abbey was founded by King Peada, who also employed the first abbot. The abbot's name has been spelt in a variety of formats including Saxulf, Sexulf, Saxwulf, Seaxwolf and Sexwolf. There are also many different accounts of how he lived his life. Sexwulf was much celebrated in Medehamstede in the past, although the name has now been all but forgotten. He is said to have been wealthy, well-liked and had many connections amongst the elite of the Saxon community. These connections enabled him to convert many others to Christianity and he was rewarded for his hard work by becoming a bishop. He is also credited with establishing the first community in what is now Thorney. A small anchorage was created on Thorney island by him when he was gifted the land, known then as Ancarig. (1)
(1)'Houses of Benedictine monks: Abbey of Thorney', in A History of the County of Cambridge and the Isle of Ely: Volume 2, ed. L F Salzman (London, 1948), pp. 210-217. British History Online [accessed 14 June 2018].